How Can Freelancers Maintain Work-Life Balance?

May 21, 2013

Bring more balance to your work and life with this advice from our candidates for Member Representative. By sharing how they manage personal and professional priorities, the three finalists offer helpful tips and further insight into their freelance careers.

Read each candidate’s answer below and check back on June 4 to find out who won!

Ina Chang
Writer & Editor
Seattle, WA

I’ve been fortunate to be in a field – book editing and PR/communications for corporations and foundations – that allows me to have a completely flexible schedule. This was especially valuable when my son was young, and it has made many weekday activities possible for me, from volunteer work and driving the afternoon carpool to performing as a classical singer on the side. (My freelance schedule allowed me to do a couple of three-month stints in a touring opera company – a rare foray for me into W-2 employment.)

Now that my son is older, I find that I have longer stretches of solitary work time, which I try to offset with other activities that bring structure and variety to my day. I think we all struggle with balance and perhaps never achieve it, but what’s crucial for me is having choices and having some control. Every time I meet a friend for coffee at 10am on a weekday or run errands in the middle of the afternoon, I’m aware that not everyone has that option.

Aaron Silver
Website Developer
Minneapolis, MN

As a freelance website developer, with clients all over the continent, I can theoretically do my work at any time of day or night. My regular working hours are 9-4, but I’m willing to make some of the hours outside of that time available to clients (but only for a price). If a client wants work done by a tight deadline, I will charge more for the work than I would if I could do it all during my regular working hours. Evenings, Sundays, and early mornings are negotiable, but they cost more. I put a real price on that extra time because it's time away from my life and my family.

Even though I will work outside of regular hours at times, some times are simply non-negotiable. For example, if fulfilling a contract would mean working between Friday sundown and Saturday sundown, I don't take the contract. I don't work during that time period and it's non-negotiable. The same would apply to important family commitments.

If I desperately needed every penny I could possibly earn in order to pay for bread and board, I wouldn't have the luxury of turning down contracts or charging more for urgent work. I'm lucky to have skills in relatively high demand, and to have been freelancing for long enough to have built up a good reputation with past and current clients.

Blair Campbell
Writer & Editor
Mill Valley, CA

It helps to segment my day and week, shifting focus as different priorities come to the fore. Mornings, for example, are devoted to billable work – which usually means writing and editing. If I’m facing a deadline, this work will take up more of the day – but if not, afternoons are for work and personal “admin,” errands, and preschool pickup. Deadline or not, I also exercise most afternoons.

To offset the fact that personal tasks sneak into my workday, I tend to work into the early evening – after dinner and my three-year-old’s bedtime. I try to wrap up an hour or two before bed, so that my brain isn’t too wired for sleep. I also get out with friends, or do something work-related but social, about one weeknight a week.